Wind of Change Is Ruffling the Locals; with Pressure on the Government to Use Renewable Energy, Wind Turbines Could Soon Be Installed without the Need for Planning Permission. Patrice John Discovers There Is Already a Growing Backlash among Communities to Such Schemes
Byline: Patrice John
"I am not against wind turbines but it depends on where you put them and against a backdrop of a rural church in a countryside village, I think presents a conflict."
Nigel Tongue is fighting proposals for the country's largest wind turbines on his doorstep in Clifton Campville, Staffordshire.
The chairman of the village hall, along with many residents, feels not enough consultation has been carried out regarding the installation of a 250ft wind speed testing mast in the Thorpe, Clifton, Harlaston area and the proposed development of four 400ft commercial wind turbines on the outskirts of Haunton, a village between Clifton and Harlaston.
"Wind turbines I think are reasonably inefficient but they can be seen and the Government likes anything eco to be seen but the problem is where you locate them," he explained.
"The four that are planned within our parish are very close to a small rural village, they will be a very prominent part of our skyline and be seen from many miles around. St Andrew's Church in the village is 650 years old with a spire measuring 188ft. This will be against a turbine double the size. There are other places they could be located which don't affect residents in rural areas such as coastal areas. This is pure greenbelt - they wouldn't allow houses, schools or shops to be built here."
County councillor Matthew Ellis said the views expressed by Mr Tongue are common among residents.
"A lot of residents felt hard done by. There were several issues and these proposals are for the largest in the country.
Some residents are not particularly against turbines but they are furious that they haven't been consulted."
The application is due to be made in February about half a mile from the current test site.
Although assurances have been given that notices will be put up around the area, Mr Ellis is sending out letters to 600 homes informing them of the situation.
Mr Tongue, 55, an architectural consultant, fears that more wind turbines will be forced upon residents as planning laws become more relaxed. He said: "The Government is moving towards making planning permission easier. It already fiddled with permitted development rights for householders last year. There is a lot of talk about planning permission being easier to get without consultation and appeals are being streamlined. I fear this will get worse."
The situation in Staffordshire is echoed across the country as the need for cleaner, greener energy across the UK continues to dominate the political agenda.
The Department for Communities and Local Government has published proposals that would allow wind turbines to be installed throughout the country without planning permission.
Housing minister John Healey announced the change would allow home owners and councils to install wind turbines, charging points for electric cars and solar panels. The change in planning law is designed to make it easier for large-scale wind farms to escape local planning wrangles. It will also allow turbines of up to 15ft to be installed on industrial estates and farmland without permission.
The Conservatives have proposed communities should get lower gas and electricity bills for up to 25 years if they did not dispute wind farm developments.
Proposals included allowing residents to share in the proceeds of business rates paid by wind farms for six years after they were built.
Shadow energy and climate secretary Greg Clark said: "Onshore wind is often a divisive subject, driven by bitter planning disputes which are bad for climate change policy, bad for the wind power industry and bad for local communities.
"I would argue that wind farm applications are often bogged down because there is no clear benefit to local communities in hosting them."
The Conservatives raised a common argument as even small-scale projects have historically attracted opposition from residents. …